Life Extension Magazine®
X-ray of knee bones and joint supported by zinc supplement

Zinc’s Role in Bone Health

Studies show that zinc stimulates new bone formation.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. April Parks, MD, MS, on March 2021. Written By Paz Etcheverry, PhD.

Experts commonly recommend several nutrients to help build strong, healthy bones, especially calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.

But there’s another mineral that’s also essential for bone health.

Zinc is often overlooked by mainstream bone-building protocols. It is critical for growth and maintenance of healthy bone.

Zinc both prevents the breakdown of bone and helps form new bone. It’s a building block of bone itself. And it reduces the inflammation that can damage bone.

Daily oral intake of zinc in combination with other essential bone nutrients can help maintain strong bones well into older age.

Bone Remodeling

Doctor holding up patient x-rays

We have more than 200 bones in our body.1

About 90% of bone volume is made up of minerals and various proteins.2

The remaining 10% is occupied by different kinds of cells, including osteoclasts and osteoblasts. 2

Bone is not a static organ. It is constantly going through a process known as remodeling.2,3

During this process, osteoclasts break down and remove old and damaged bone, transferring minerals from bone tissue to blood.

Osteoblasts use those minerals to form healthy new bone.3

When this process works the way it’s supposed to, our bone mineral density or bone mass remains at an optimal level.

As we age, bone mineral density often begins to decline. This problem can be made worse by other factors, including low levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and others, as well as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and more.4

The Threat of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a severe reduction in bone mass. It causes bones to become fragile and prone to fracture. It may lead to reduced quality of life, disability, and sometimes death.5

It is estimated that about 10 million Americans over age 50 have osteoporosis,6 which literally means “porous bone.” People often don’t know they have it until they suffer a fracture.

An additional 43 million Americans have osteo-penia,6 a bone mineral density that is lower than normal but not low enough to qualify as osteoporosis.

Physicians routinely recommend increased calcium and vitamin D intake to maintain and preserve bone mass.7,8

This approach is not sufficient. Bone remodeling is a complex process that requires sufficient intake of many other nutrients, including zinc, magnesium and vitamin K.

Zinc is often neglected in discussions of bone health. But without enough zinc, building strong bones is impossible.9

Zinc and Healthy Bones

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays diverse roles in the human body. It is needed for proper immune function, cell replication, protein synthesis, and more.10

Zinc is also required for the growth, development, and maintenance of healthy bones.9

Low dietary intake and blood levels of zinc are associated with osteoporosis in adult men11 and postmenopausal women.12

One study showed that average zinc levels were significantly lower in osteoporotic women than in either those with osteopenia or normal women.13

In one randomized controlled trial, oral intake of zinc prevented decreases in bone density in postmenopausal women with low zinc consumption.14

Zinc’s Role in Bone Formation

Zinc appears to increase bone formation in a few different ways.

It plays a role in the synthesis of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a protein that plays an important part in the maintenance of bone health.15

What you need to know

Weight lifter with strain on bones

Zinc Helps Build Stronger Bones

  • As we age, our bone mineral density tends to decline. This can eventually lead to osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Many nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, are known to be essential for bone health. But the mineral zinc is also essential for building strong bones, though it is often overlooked.
  • In studies, adults with osteoporosis have lower levels of zinc than adults with healthy bones.
  • Research shows that zinc inhibits the breakdown of bone, helps in the formation of new bone, and prevents chronic inflammation and oxidative damage that can harm bones.
  • Life Extension suggests a total intake of 25 mg to 50 mg of zinc daily, along with other nutrients to support healthy bone mineral density and protect against fractures.

This mineral has also been shown to stimulate the expression of a transcription factor related to the differentiation of stem cells to pre-osteoblast cells (precursor cells that become osteoblasts).16

Keep in mind that bone is constantly going through a process known as remodeling.2,3

Studies also indicate that zinc increases the activity of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase, which spurs osteoblasts to begin forming new bone.16,17

In one study, patients with traumatic bone fractures received either 50 mg per day of zinc or a placebo.17

After 60 days, zinc intake had positive effects on the formation of callus, the bony and cartilaginous material that forms on a bone fracture during repair. Zinc also resulted in a significant elevation of alkaline phosphatase activity.17

At the same time that zinc helps in bone formation, it inhibits bone breakdown by osteoclasts.18 This helps support the proper balance between old bone and new bone, known as bone remodeling.

Nutrients to Promote Bone Health

Screen example of bone health

Bones are a dynamic, living tissue, with all the vulnerabilities to damage as any other tissue. Zinc is important for the maintenance of healthy bones. Other ingredients promoting bone health:

Calcium provides the bulk of the mineral content of bones and vitamin D3 promotes calcium uptake from the gut.23

Magnesium regulates calcium movement into and between bone cells, increasing bone mineral density.24

Vitamin K is essential for bone strength.25,26 Low vitamin K status is associated with decreased bone mineral density and increased risk of fracture.27

Manganese functions as an essential cofactor (helper molecule) for enzymes that promote the growth of bone and prevent damaging oxidative stress.28

Silicon improves the quality of bone matrix (the non-mineral part of bone composed of collagen and other proteins) and facilitates the bone-building process known as mineralization.29

Boron is a trace mineral that has beneficial effects for bone and joint strength.30

Stronger, Healthier Bones

Metal shield with zine atomic symbol

Zinc doesn’t just help in the process of formation of bone. It plays a structural role in the skeleton as well.

It is the most abundant trace mineral in the human skeleton. (Macrominerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are present in higher amounts.) Roughly 85% of zinc in the body is found in muscle and bone.18

Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of immune cells, which help protect against immune senescence and chronic inflammation.19 In bone, chronic inflammation may disrupt bone remodeling and result in bone loss.20,21

Zinc is also required for vitamin D to work properly inside cells. Several vitamin D-dependent genes are influenced by zinc concentrations.22

Summary

Milk and vitamin d associated with bone health

Bone health depends on a variety of nutrients, not just calcium and vitamin D.

The mineral zinc is often overlooked, but plays a vital role in building strong, healthy bone, and preventing osteoporosis.

It diminishes bone breakdown and stimulates bone formation, and is also required for the proper functioning of vitamin D.

It is essential to make sure you’re getting enough zinc on a daily basis, especially as you age.

Many dietary supplement users receive zinc with their multivitamin formulas. Life Extension® suggests a total intake of 25 mg to 50 mg of zinc daily.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

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